VICTORIA PALACE THEATRE - 100 YEARS OLD

Saturday 12 November 2011

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The Victoria Palace Theatre marked its 100th birthday last week, a century of hilarious comedies and spectacular musicals bringing it to this milestone anniversary. Opening on November 6, 1911, The Victoria Palace Theatre was designed by architect Frank Matcham and built at a cost of £12,000. There has actually been a theatre on this site for far longer than the Victoria Palace Theatre which sits there now.

The site was originally occupied by a small concert hall above the stables of the Royal Standard Hotel built in 1832. The owner John Moy enlarged the original building and in 1850 it became known as Moy's Music Hall. It was then taken over by Alfred Brook in 1863 and was renamed the Royal Standard Music Hall. The Royal Standard was then demolished in 1910 making way for the Victoria Palace Theatre which subsequently opened in 1911. The theatres plush red interior hasn't changed much since then however it has housed a very wide variety of shows.

Opening in 1911, it was a music hall all the way until 1934 when the venue presented its first play with Walter Reynolds Young England. From 1947 to 1962, a team of Comedians and variety stars known collectively as The Crazy Gang, played at the theatre for 15 years. The team was made up of Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton, Jimmy Gold and Eddie Gray and for many, the theatre will always be associated with this group.

The long running Black and White Minstrel Show played through the 1960's until 1972 and in 1982 a production of The Little Foxes saw Elizabeth Taylor make her London stage debut. Another very successful long-running show at the Victoria Palace was Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story that played for 13 years in London beginning in 1989 and transferring to The Strand in 1995. After this the theatre presented mostly revivals of musicals like Grease and Tonight's the Night before Billy Elliott The Musical opened in 2005 and will continue to play until at least December 2012.

Despite the large 1,500 seating capacity, current owner Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen describes the theatre as feeling like a far cosier venue. With building work currently taking place to restore it to its former glamour and also upgrading the auditorium facilities to enhance the public's viewing pleasure, the Victoria Palace Theatre can look forward to another century of wonderful theatre.

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